Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Sick of Republican Horseshit, Local Edition

So our local elected representatives in the county legislature that has a veto-proof Republican majority decided, two days after the election that threw out the Republican county executive, that, among other changes to the budget hammered out in September, that 3/4 of a million dollar had to be taken out of the operating funds for the county-run nursing home and shifted to such necessary items as another corrections officer, games with sales tax distribution, a legislative assistant for themselves , and decreasing property tax rates by an average of 83 cents per household. Even the outgoing executive vetoed several of their changes, but the party-line robots in the legislature rammed through the changes anyway. The upshot is that the incoming Democratic county executive is going to be dealing with major problems caused by this blatant attempt to handicap his ability to govern from his first day in office.
I'm not even going to argue specifics with this one. The point is that this is a microcosm of what happens nationally. What we are seeing here, and across the nation, is nothing more or nothing less than a coup d'tat in progress. Poll after poll, year after year, finds that a majority of the American people are not in favor of decreased services, of lower corporate taxes, of fewer options for medical insurance. But this generation of Republicans, with roots back to Goldwater but that came of age in the Reagan years, honestly does not care about their constituents' wishes, or effectively governing, or whether or not the society as a whole benefits. They are tribal in outlook and deed, and have decided that the raw naked exercise of power to enforce their will and their ideology is the point of holding office. They are highly motivated to achieve that end, and as time passes, George Carlin's observations about the problems that highly motivated people bring with them are being proved unfortunately true.
And the way modern society has evolved, or perhaps has been shaped, all but insures that these highly motivated people will remain in control of the levers of power. Functional democracies depend on involved, informed citizens. Democracy worked as long as it did here because those that were able to vote were intensely aware and knowledgeable about issues of governance. And the biggest fuel for that involvement was economic mobility. When you're not working yourself to the bone every week, when you're not troubled by the need to survive, you can turn your mind to other things. When your basic concerns are on a subsistence level, you tend to believe what you're told or ignore larger political concerns altogether. And that is what has happened in America in the last 35 years. More and more people work harder to gain less, and the sources of information for those that still want to be informed have shrunk and have become vehicles of the elite class, serving the interests of the ruling by misinformation, focusing on circuses, and finding scapegoats for problems. Those that pay attention know it's horseshit--but those that pay attention are growing fewer and fewer by the year.
And on a practical level, the only people running for office are those guided by one overwhelming imperative: "I've got mine, and I'm going to do my damnedest to make sure that I keep mine, and if it means everyone else is screwed, so be it." While the rhetoric of the American Dream was always far short of the reality, at least as a nation we were trying to live up to it for a generation or two. No longer. To someone that grew up in the Cold War, that grew up listening to and believing to those that proclaimed that we were better than the Communists, this concentration of power among the haves and the denigration of our own populace that justifies it is sickening. It's made even more sickening by the fact that most of those doing it profess to be practicing Christians (although as power becomes more and more entrenched, less is heard on this front).
There are many reasons why this county has a large Republican majority in the legislature. But the biggest ones is that they have successfully, and cynically, stoked the prejudices of suburbia and rural Broome by painting Binghamton dwellers as alien and dangerous, and by continuing, in the face of all evidence accumulated across the nation in the last generation, that tax cutting is a boon to economic growth. It isn't. It never will be. But since the temporary gain in some voters' pocket is tangible, and since they are being convinced that the money not taken was going to blah people and other undeserving undesirables, they're all in favor of it. And not enough have the inclination or the thought capacity to figure out they're being played.
I don't know what the answer is. No one really wants to contemplate the R word, but short of serious, violent conflict, it's getting harder and harder to envision serious changes being made, especially since the traditional inhibitions against gaming the process to ensure that your side always wins have been thrown to the winds by this generation's Republicans. In short, they are willing to cheat to keep themselves in power, on a national and in many places on a local scale.
I remember thinking when I was growing up that compared to my parents, I was growing up in dull and staid times, that nothing noteworthy was likely to happen in my lifetime. I only wish that I had been correct. Because what has happened in my adult years has been just as important, and a lot less edifying, than what happened in the previous generation. We have been witness to, and in some cases a party to, the death of the American experiment in democratic government. We gave it a better shot, even if some elements of our society were always excluded from it, than any other democracy, with the possible exception of Switzerland, in history. But it's dying, and it's not going to come back. Because the only way significant change is going to happen is through radical and likely violent means. And for that I blame Republicans, who engage in horseshit like the county legislature just pulled off to advance their goals at the expense of what's good for their constituents and the society at large.
No democracy can ever survive a ruling party whose motto is "We got ours, and the rest of you can go scratch."

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